It wasn’t until I became deeply involved in church that I understood the need for women’s studies.
I have come from a family of strong females. My grandmother graduated with a degree from Boston University. After her divorce, she lived alone, supporting herself, working full time as a kindergarten teacher in Boston. She navigated the world she lived in by herself. She bought and owned a home. She survived breast cancer, she traveled all over the country alone she maintained her life as a modern autonomous woman. She was a strong independent and self-governing female and it never interfered with her ability to submit to God, follow Christ or teach others about him. She had no husband at home to teach her, but then again, the bible does say that the holy spirit teaches us.
My mother was a strong woman, she raised three daughters alone. She owned and started a horse-riding school. She negotiated, made business deals, managed a field, took out the trash and she loved and honored Jesus. She led a congregation for 14 years. She influenced and raised up many people who love and serve the Lord today. My mother was one of the greatest evangelists I know, there is no one whom she wouldn’t share and teach Christ with because of their sex. She worked nights as a nurse and by day she hosted and led bible studies in our home. As a single woman she pointed all sorts of people from every background to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations” is there a gender restriction here? She took the Lord’s word and command seriously. Am I to live as if she was doing something wrong?
My dad remarried a strong capable woman, whom he always treated as an equal in every way. Building a successful company side by side with her from the ground up, sharing responsibilities and rewards equally. This was my world, men and woman side by side, having the same competences and beautiful complimentary differences. There was no job description I reserved for men. Every pastor I knew as a child growing up in a Pentecostal church was female. I never knew it was considered progressive. In the secular world a woman can perform heart surgery, sit as a supreme court judge determining life sentences, make arrests and run for president, but when she walks through the church doors that changes? mainstream evangelical churches are often only using half its population, sadly the church is creating a division because of its exploitation in some cases towards God’s order.
My father always treated my sisters and I like people not like the lesser sex. He never expected us to adopt a certain role as a female, wear a certain kind of clothes, or have a certain kind of job, “you can do anything you want to do”, he would say. He believed we were able, smart, strong and equal, so did we. This view of me as a person never changed my ability or desire to have faith be feminine or nurture children. There was no either- or. It was both. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and through Christ who dwells in me.
I didn’t know what the word feminist even was until my 30’s. Was I naïve, sheltered perhaps or rather was I raised within a utopian-like community, well-established and bearing the fruits of the woman rights movements. I never understood the need for a feminist. “why would anyone ever think women were not equal, I questioned?” I cocked my head when I learned about woman’s suffrage, I had never heard of it before. Because in my world there was no question or even a hint of anything but outspoken woman roles, in my home and church they were perfectly acceptable and welcomed.
Sadly, it wasn’t until I became deeply involved church that I understood the need for women’s studies. It was in the context of church that I questioned gender roles and God’s view of females. would I be happier if I was actually quiet, and didn’t question and think deeply about controversial topics? would I not be depressed if I was more submissive? if I was content with housework would my children love Jesus more? is God more honored by a woman when she is silent within the body of Christ? There was never anything defiant about how I saw females, there was never any rebellion, I’ve never felt like I want to control a man and certainly not my husband.
When I first began to learn from scripture Paul’s teachings I had no objection rather, I support Ephesians 5 marriage like Christ and the church, I believe it is good to submit one to another and even the family order is beautiful and right to me as laid out in the bible account. Even with the knowledge that there are some pretty evil men out there, I trusted that those within the church were godly deserving our respect in what they teach and I only assumed it was reciprocal? and it is in some churches. but in others unspoken rules expect women to earn a role of honor by how she lives, dresses, and behaves towards others through her service. While men get that honor rather quickly simply by confessing Christ and asking questions about the bible. Only recently have I understood the hypocrisy of the sexes. I learned that not all people treat or see women as equivalent in character and leadership roles within the church, evangelical Christianity is one offender. I learned that my gender comes complete with limits in certain places, such as teaching in mixed company. “it’s not our practice that women teach men.” I learned That I can do almost all things through Christ who lives in me, I learned I can teach some peoples, and that my words, knowledge and value is dependent not on who I am, or my spiritual maturity but my husband’s presence. If I wanted to learn more, I had to submit more readily to my husband who knows less about the scripture then I do. So I guess in a way I learned that its not at all about who I am, but what I conform to. I’m not threatened by conforming, respecting, submitting or even being a tier lower. What threatens me are those who would use this conformity to Christ as a means to oppress me because they are threatened.
I didn’t learn all this by the men in my church but by the movement of mainstream Christianity. The men in my church never made me feel less then, if anything they took opportunities to bolster women into more significant roles in the church and they have been working to counteract the stigmas placed on gender roles. I was unaware of any outrageous bias. But once your eyes are open you see it everywhere. Once I began to climb the ladder of church leadership some of these deep-seated traditions and beliefs emerged reluctantly, slipping out around committee meetings and board tables. But it has been through well known Christian hall of famers that my views have been forged on this matter. Its important to recognize that not all Christian men believe the same things about these matters, as many have stood up in defense of women leaders who have been attacked in recent years over their preaching and teaching roles in the church.
There are time it feels all my gifts, abilities, studying, spiritual ministries, including the holy spirit in me is limited by my femaleness. Has all that God bestowed upon me as an individual only reach as far as my gender? This would be ok with me if prominent men such as John Macarthur, in the evangelical lime light were not publicly declaring that women make men weak, that women preaching in churches is why the church is in rebellion today and that a curse is coming upon these women as laid out in Isaiah 3. he says there is no biblical proof for them to be permitted to speak in church. So women have submitted, because that is what they were taught is right. Women have surrendered their gifting’s to their “own” gender exclusively, and the children of course. God has anointed these faithful godly women to preach the word, God has raised up daughters and given inheritances and now there is a strong army of women no longer fitting undetected under the rug of conventional commentary.
The reasons this is so shocking to me still is the church has the bible, the church has Jesus the church has the word of God, the same word that in so many places honors godly women. The word of God exalts females who serve God and obey his word. God doesn’t look upon the outward but the inner parts of mankind, the heart, the heart which has no sex organs. Right? Why is it that in every other sector of life woman can be leaders, but not the church – in fact in the church they are not even permitted to speak! In Christ there is no division, no black or white, no man or woman, Jew or gentile, free or slave. This is the law of Liberty that we cling to. this is the spirit that we ought to be defined by. The things that look different on the outside have no bearing on our status or our ability to serve God fully. Where on earth would church teachers ever get the idea that God doesn’t see men and woman as equal in all regards? In some ways the church has the most progressive constitution and document in the world. What is more advanced than the makers full scope of the universe beginning to end. Let me tell you a secret, that I hope you already know: it’s not God’s word that is outdated but our traditions. I believe we as humanity are far more outdated than God is.